HEALTH – Making exercise fit into your life

I’ve spent thousands of dollars on gym memberships — and it took me over four years to realize that I had the perfect gym outside my door.

I used to strongly dislike working out

In North Burnaby, I lived in a neighbourhood where going to the gym was a way of life, especially if you were one of the obnoxious boys I went to high school with. They’d hog our school’s weight room, heckle other people, and then outside of that parade around in their expensive sportswear, hoping to find another gym to show off at when the one at school was booked for other groups. It wasn’t welcoming.

Jersey Shore was also very popular when I was in high school (if you don’t know what that is, consider yourself lucky) so the “gym, tan, laundry” concept was often the hill many of them died on. The culture I associated with the gym with turned me off to it completely. Sure, I played badminton, but even that was popular with so many students, so trying to find extra time to play outside of being on the team was hard.

Enough time went by that the Jersey Shore culture disappeared, so I tried to experience the gym while attending university. I’d never make it past a week because I became bored. At first I thought it was just the actual gym I’d be in: while it was well-kept, it was a 24-hour gym, and most of the hours I worked and went to school didn’t allow for workout classes or commitment to a personal trainer. Staring at the wall or the mirror while doing bicep curls killed me, and some of the workout machines looked terrifying. After memberships at three different gyms, I finally stopped going altogether.

Since I’ve been on my health kick, I’ve found success in modifying my workout plan, with the majority of it taking place in the environments I’m in. I always get asked how I “make time” to work out, because I have a pretty wicked schedule (on a regular day, I wake up and start my day at around 3:30 AM, and go to bed somewhere between 9:00 PM and 10:00 PM) and the answer is I try my hardest to fit it in. Some things I’ve listed off I actually have to make time and space at home for, but most of it is improvising within daily spaces.

A couple of things before you go ahead and read this: I’m not a doctor, so if you’re looking for a health professional to give you advice about an exercise regimen, stop reading and give your GP a call. They can chat with you about what your strengths and weaknesses are, as well as what you can and can’t do. Another good person to seek advice from is a personal trainer. There are many right across the Lower Mainland, so make sure you do your research and pick the person who can work with you and your needs. I’m sharing my ideas with you in the hopes that you may be inspired to add five, ten, maybe fifteen minutes into your day so you can get up and get moving.

And if you’re happy at the gym, then keep at it! Remember, these are my personal experiences. This is just one of many options available to you to try and be active. You can do it!

Good morning!

At around 3:30 AM, my alarm goes off. If I’m getting a ride to work, it’ll go off a little earlier. While I like the rides to work (they’re convenient and I get dropped off right at the door to NW) they throw a wrench in my step goals for the day because I get less time to be active. Other days I take the SkyTrain in, which is great for my step count because there’s a lot of walking involved. The walk between home and Columbia Station, followed by getting off the train at Granville Station and walking to CKNW gets me close to 800 steps right off the bat, which is a good chunk of my current 13,000 daily step target.

If I end up with a car ride, I make it a point to walk around the office more. Moving is moving, right?! Right! I actually saw this tweet not too long ago that, outside of any politically-charged retaliations, really spoke to what I was trying to do.

It’s a couple of hundred steps to walk around the office, so I’ll make sure to get up once an hour and do a lap. A couple of hundred laps easily add up to about 1,000 steps — on some days, 2,000, if I play my cards right.

If I’m warming up lunch, or doing something that doesn’t involve breaking news (for instance, running to the printer, going to the washroom, or going to talk to a producer on the other side of the office), then I’ll do a full lap around the building, too. Remember, the key to thinking about this is walking around with the mantra, “every step counts.”

I’m off work!

At around 12:30 or 1:00 PM — depending on when my shift ends — I don’t take the elevator down from the 21st floor. Yes, you guessed it: I take the stairs.

If you’re an avid listener to the station, you may have heard us complaining about these stairs over the years. Once in a while, we all get booted out for a fire drill, and most people get really, really tired having to run down 21 flights of stairs to get out. When you do it enough, though, it’s not so bad! The only part that’s really bad is the end, where the landing takes you into a very warm, insulated corridor. (It is NOT summer-heat friendly and is incredibly stuffy!) Taking the stairs adds 460 steps to my daily count. Hey, Cadillac Fairview, bring on the fire drills. I’m ready for my next run down these stairs!

Of course, stairs aren’t the greatest when you have a bummed knee or foot, so don’t feel like you need to run down 21 flights of stairs if you can’t. I’d suggest starting small; do a couple of floors at a time — tailor these ideas to what work best for you and your body. And yes, I was incredibly sore the first time I did these. It just takes time to get used to.

Getting home

This goes a couple of ways. Most of the time, I’ll take the train home, but it’s just a matter of figuring out where I get on. Some days I’ll just walk to Waterfront Station (that’s about 900 steps) and take the train from there. Other days I’ll walk to Main Street-Science World (this gets me an additional 2500 steps at the minimum), and when I’m feeling really adventurous, I’ll walk from CKNW to Commercial-Broadway — which adds about 6,000 to 7,000 steps to my count. Figuring out easy-to-walk routes to take includes mucking around on Google Maps; the rest of it is just trial and error. For instance, I don’t like taking East 1st Avenue when I walk to Commercial-Broadway, because there’s too much traffic. I’ve managed to find quieter routes to Commercial-Broadway that are in the residential areas, and are less of a strain on my knees.

I feel that by doing this, it gets me to where I need to go. Sure, I lose about an hour to an hour and a half walking to a SkyTrain station, but at least I’m getting where I need to go while getting some exercise in — well, that’s how I look at it.

For the more adventurous days…I go on my “urban hike”

Brace yourself: I’m about to outline one of the walks I’m best known (and considered crazy for) — my walks from CKNW to Metrotown. This is actually more straightforward than most people think, and I have a few routes I like to take, but my favourite one is actually Kingsway. I simply walk along West Georgia when I’m off shift (towards the viaducts), take the stairs next to the Stadium-Chinatown Station down into International Village, and walk along False Creek. Then, I get onto Main Street, which eventually intersects with Kingsway. I take Kingsway all the way to Metrotown, and I usually get there in about two hours. I like the variation on the walk; the slopes are moderate, and they aren’t too hard on my knees. Plus, I get to scope out the area, and survey all the great food places I want to take Jon to!

I burn anywhere from 1,700 to 2,300 calories on this walk. Once I get to Metrotown, I’ll stop for a lunch break (I usually pick a place that serves relatively “fresher” food at the mall, like U-Grill, Opa, or Subway to keep the calories down; I don’t ever go for cheeseburgers or junk food when I get there!) and then I’ll hop on the SkyTrain at Metrotown and head home.

I’ve learned a lot doing these walks: bring plenty of water. I don’t do this walk without a full one-litre water bottle. Bring a towel, especially in the heat. You will sweat so hard, and that combined with the pollution from the roads is not good for your skin. Also, the first few times I did this walk, I brought dried fruit with me when I started to feel tired. I recommend dried apricots or trail mix (without the smarties) for stashing in your bag. There is nothing worse when you’re walking 20,000 steps and you want to run into a convenience store and grab chips or ice cream. You won’t feel any better.

…and I’ve also walked all the way home from CKNW

If I feel like I’ve got the energy, then yes, I will walk all the way home. I’ve only done this once, and I only recommend doing something like this in the later stages of your walking experience. It took me a little more than a month before I realized I had the energy to do this. So, after walking from CKNW to Metrotown, I’ll take my lunch break like I do…and then I’ll continue to walk down Kingsway until I reach New Westminster. I walk all the way to Sixth, turn left, and hit Sixth on Sixth, and walk home towards the water. Boom. 31,000+ steps after four hours.

I’ve also learned to make pit stops at places where I know they’ll have resources available. Jon picked up on a pretty good trick to go into community centres or parks to find a water fountain where you can refill your water bottle. Again, packing extra dry snack food you can eat during your walk will help if you tend to get peckish during your exercise. Also — don’t forget the tunes, and bring an extra battery pack if you can to keep your phone going.

I highly suggest clearing your day for this one — aside from having walked more than 31,000 steps from Vancouver to New Westminster, you will want to sleep. I slept for eight hours straight after this walk, which I rarely ever do.

Just to give you a comparison of what kind of walk 31,000 is, it’s comparable to the number of steps you’d hike along the Hanes Valley trail. Not too long ago, Gord Macdonald did the North Vancouver hike, and he walked about 35,000 steps. There, now you don’t have to head into the mountains to get your steps in!

Having an exercise buddy (or people to talk to about your goals) helps a LOT

Gord and Terry have been really, really good about listening to how I rack up steps daily, as they too try to get thousands of steps in each day. Both of them have also given me some good advice, whether it’s about recovering or walking. Jon has also been a big help with the weightlifting portion, and sometimes he’ll come out on walks with me. My god sister, Christine, has been challenging me on Fitbit to virtual hikes and marathons (so far, she’s actually beat me at a couple, so I actually need to up my game!). I also Snapchat my walks, and post results on Instagram, and people have been very encouraging. Doing this also keeps you accountable to your goals.

On the weekends, I walk to go get groceries

Depending on what we need, it’s anywhere between a 30 – 40 minute walk to local grocers to pick up a few things. I don’t take the car or the bus — I just walk, which gets me anywhere between 5,000 and 8,000 steps (it counts if you’re walking around and shopping for stuff, too!) by the time I come home.

…but I also find time to rest!

Especially after big walks or workouts, give your body a chance to catch-up. You don’t want to be going hard every single day. Change up your workouts; if you do a big walk one day, think about lifting some weights the next day. I’ve also dabbled in yoga the day after a massive walk. It’s not for me, but I’ve kept some of the poses for stretching; I really like child’s pose and the tree pose.

No matter what you choose to do…

Make sure you do your research, know your limits, and do what’s best for you and your body! I can’t say that enough. Good luck with your goals, and be sure to share with me how you’re getting your exercise in! Drop me a line here, or tweet at me!

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